Dispensationalism A Modern Thief
by Rev. R. C. Harbach
It is a distinction of Dispensationalism, not of Reformed truth, to speak of spiritual blessings and temporal blessings. The distinction is made because it is mistakenly believed that God makes promises that apply to all men without exception, and that He has blessings for all men, if not spiritual, then temporal. But the promises of God are all made exclusively in Christ. Not one of them can be of any good to those outside of Christ. There is no favor of God shown outside of Christ. To put it more pointedly, there is no favor of God shown to any apart from the Cross. Outside of the purchased mercies of Calvary, there is no favor shown men. To speak of special mercies in Calvary and common mercies outside Calvary is plain Modernism. Any outside of Christ are out of the favor of God. He has such in His view only as the objects of His wrath. There is no place of refuge or hope for a man except in Christ. If it be asked, “Does not God do many good things to all men, including those outside of Christ, sending rain upon the just and the unjust, and filling even the wicked with food’ and gladness?” (See Ps. 17:14 and Acts 14:17). This is true. But those good gifts are not blessings to the wicked. The Lord says they are not in Prov. 3:32-35. The righteous enjoy His secret, but the froward are an abomination to Him. “The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but He blesseth the habitation of the just.” Those outside of Christ He scorns, “but He gives grace to the lowly,” not to the wicked. The wise shall experience glory, but fools shame. Good gifts, according to this Word of God, are common, but not blessings. Good gifts to the righteous are blessings, but to the wicked they are like food given to bullocks prepared. for the day of slaughter (cf. Jer. 12:3 with Jas. 5:5). Temporal gifts do not make temporal blessings. For blessings are not temporal; they are spiritual. Temporalities are common; but mercies are particular.
Since the Puritans and Reformers were quite aware of the dangers inherent in this faulty interpretive system, it will be most instructive to closely consider a condensation from John Owen given in answer to the plea that promises made to Old Testament Israel belong exclusively to the Jews.
(Illustrated from Deut. 31:6 with Josh. 1:5)
But Owen goes on to maintain “the sameness of love that is in all the promises, their establishment in one Mediator, and the general concernment of believers in every one of them, and that on whatsoever occasion given. This promise to Joshua is here applied to the condition of the weakest, meanest and poorest of the saints of God, to all and every one of them, to the saints of old, even Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and the residue of them who walked with God in their generations. So that we may say boldly (without staggering at it by unbelief) ‘the Lord is my Helper.’ This is a conclusion of faith! because God said to Joshua, a BELIEVER, ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee’ (though upon a particular occasion, and in reference to a particular employment), every believer may say with boldness, ‘He is my Helper!’ ”
Dispensationalism does go to the extreme of belittling the Old Testament, its importance and value. Some of its disciples cannot criticize strongly enough those who do not limit themselves entirely to the New Testament. This is done, not by open atheists, or by known Modernists, but by those who are the reputed champions of orthodoxy, who profess the plenary inspiration of holy Scripture. So the alert defenses of the Christian may become slowed and deadened, without his awareness, merely because the ministry he sits under is that of men faithful to the “fundamentals,” well versed in Scripture and completely dedicated to Christ. Then when they come out with their “dispensational truth,” they “must be right!”
We say once again, Dispensationalism compares in many ways to Modernism, in fact, has in it the seeds of Modernism, and so can be no adequate defense against or refutation of Modernism. Modernists are like King Jehoiakim, who with his penknife cut whole sections of the Scripture out of the Book of the Covenant and threw them into the fire. The teachers of “dispensational truth” have often called attention to these destructive “higher critical” methods of the Modernists in their handling of Scripture. Thomas Jefferson’s version of the New Testament is a good example of this pernicious method. Hence the tendency is to allay the fears in the minds of the hearers of these who are regarded as “sound expositors of Scripture” and “internationally known Bible teachers.” The tendency is to be favorably impressed by men who “stand for the whole Word of God” and who earnestly denounce “modernism” and expose “evolutionism.” The inference is, here certainly we must have men who may be safely followed in all their assertions! Yet both dispensationalism and modernism are productive of a fractional, penknife edition of the Bible, so that “the whole Word of God” is hardly recognizable. For Modernists claim much of the Old and New Testaments to be spurious; while Dispensationalists claim much of both Testaments belongs not to us. Both penknife addicts render much of Scripture a dead letter.
Dispensationalists, who regard certain vast areas of the Old Testament of carnal and earthly content, charge that their opponents misapply these parts to themselves in that they “spiritualize” them. We turn that around, charging that they “sectionize” and “atomize” the Scriptures, setting the exact boundaries of mutually exclusive dispensations, and dividing to distinct companies various parts of the Word of God. This method erects arbitrary hedges which bar Christ’s sheep from large portions of the green pastures of His Word. For, as they say, the Old Testament does not contain “Church truth,” hence is not for us. Neither do the Gospels and most of the Revelation. Ultra-dispensationalists leave for the Christian no more than a few prison epistles of Paul as that which applies to the Church today. The epistles of Peter belong to a coming age and to the Jewish remnant in the future great tribulation. The Sermon on the Mount is reserved for the Jews in the promised millennial kingdom.